How to Plan a Happy and Frugal Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. If you haven’t started planning your Thanksgiving dinner, it’s time to get your family and friends together to start. First, you need to make a few decisions:

  • Who’s hosting Thanksgiving dinner?
  • Who’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner?
  • Do you have enough dinnerware, serving ware, silverware, tables and chairs?
  • Will you need extra help cleaning and prepping the house?
  • What dishes/chores can you delegate to other family members?

Remember, even if you agree to host Thanksgiving dinner, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it alone. The last thing you want on Thanksgiving is to be rushing around, frazzled and not enjoy the holiday. Make sure your family and friends are on board to help out.

Now that you’ve got your team, it’s time to start planning ways to cut down on that budget. The largest cost to a Thanksgiving meal is usually the turkey and/or ham. If you’re choosing to serve multiple meats, make sure that you have different family members responsible, and cut down on your portions. Usually, a good rule of thumb is to order 1 pound for every person attending (or 1 ½ pounds per person if you’re looking to have plenty of leftovers.)

Potluck is the best way to keep the host’s Thanksgiving costs under control. Side dishes, rolls, vegetables and desserts should be brought by separate attendees. If they’re unsure how much to bring, recommend that they look up their Thanksgiving recipe on That site offers interactive recipes that will change the portions based on how many people are attending.

Before heading to the grocery store create a shopping list, clean your fridge to make room for Thanksgiving supplies, and check the flyers and Miss Money Bee’s coupon section for grocery savings. Try to shop the sales during the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. If it makes sense, buy your supplies in bulk. Be careful when buying your turkey. Fresh turkeys only last for 2 days in the fridge, so if you’re getting your turkey earlier, buy a frozen turkey with the intention that you’re going to need room in your fridge for the 3 to 5 days the turkey needs to defrost. For more tips on selecting your turkey, visit

Two days before the dinner make sure get a final head count, and touch base with everyone bringing side dishes to find out who needs stove top time to keep their dishes warm. Crock pots and heating plates are excellent accessories to have on hand if you don’t have enough stove top space. Ideally, the guests bringing warm dishes should bring something to keep it warm.

The day before should be used to finalize getting the house in order, prep any dishes/appetizers that can be done ahead of time, and setup the decorations. If you have a formal dining room, you can even set the table. Remember, the more you do the day before, the less you have to do with guests underfoot.

By Thanksgiving Day, you should have everything ready to run your Thanksgiving dinner smoothly. Hosting Thanksgiving can be a happy and frugal event.

About the Author

The following post is from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.